‘Emerald City’— a new Black-owned co-working space in Downtown Pittsburgh

A SNEAK PEEK INSIDE EMERALD CITY PGH, 213 SMITHFIELD STREET, DOWNTOWN

by Renee P. Aldrich

For New Pittsburgh Courier

Do the words, “Emerald City,” evoke an image of Diana Ross as Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road along with her three friends, the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, each hoping for a meeting with The Wiz, to get their requests granted? Well, you can prepare to shake that image because in Pittsburgh over the next few months there will be an entirely new frame of reference when you think the term “Emerald City.”

This co-working space at 213 Smithfield Street, Downtown, is housed in a three-story building that was the previous site of another co-working space which was not minority-owned. And it is just the first part of a seven-tiered project designed to put a new face of what it looks like to show Black businesses operating optimally.

Emerald City is a project of the Greenwood Plan, and is managed by Brandi Taylor of Solace Consulting, Samantha Black and Khamil Bailey. Together, they have a monumental vision for changing the landscape for Black entreprenuership in Pittsburgh. That vision began with establishing “Greenwood Week.” That week was designed to be a learning space where Black business owners and those looking to become business owners gathered and attended workshops and covered a multitude of topics necessary to start a business, keep a business running successfully and how to connect with resources.

SAMANTHA BLACK OF EMERALD CITY PGH 

KHAMIL BAILEY OF EMERALD CITY PGH 

Taylor, Black and Bailey see the establishment of “Emerald City” as part of that effort to bring that goal to fruition. “We are certain Downtown is poised to be activated with an infusion of funds and corporate businesses,” Black said, “and unless we get ahead of the curve, Blacks are going to be left out of the ability to be a part of these opportunities. We hope this site will open the door for more possibilities. We believe the time is now to do what you are going to do in Downtown, if you are going to do it; things like purchase a building, rent space, grow your business, take advantage of the walk-by traffic—the time is now.”

The location on Smithfield Street is 12,000 square feet of space just on the second floor alone. Membership options are various and include mail memberships, allowing individuals/organizations to use 213 Smithfield St. as a mailing address. This is important for businesses that need a city address to take advantage of funding opportunities. There is a social membership which allows a business or individual to have 24-hour-a-day access to conference rooms and to the boardroom once a month. The social membership also allows access to happy hours, poetry events, yoga sessions and other social functions that are periodically held at the building.

Lastly, there is the “in between” membership for people who do not need the social membership but may not be able to afford actual office space. They can get a “desk area,” with a file cabinet—you can work, leave your monitor, and lock your things up in cabinet—it isn’t an office, but does allow you a space to work.

EMERALD CITY PGH

The large, open-air reception area has a classic look, a mix between 1930s decor with private phone booth-like closets, and a modern reception desk equipped with a computer and a bank of phones. It is appointed with lounge chairs and a sofa on one end, and a medium-sized conference-style table with electrical outlets on the other end. There’s art on the walls (which can be purchased), all surrounded in heavy drapes at each window, setting an atmosphere for a quiet, reflective moment, or work. If you happen to tire of working at home, the area is large enough to hold events for upwards of 200 people.

Black said the ultimate goal of the space is to contain seven elements of Black enterprise, which will be in the form of a daycare center for a fully populated co-working space, a five-star restaurant, a cafe hall/food space, performance space, and an event space—things currently in short supply in Black communities, she said.

Black and Bailey happened to be in the right place at the right time, engaging a conversation about the vision they had to expand on their programming for Black entrepreneurs, and the owner of the 213 Smithfield Street building was around close enough to hear their conversation—and it was a plan he could buy into and thus the discussions around the use of the space began.

Include the partnerships they’ve already secured to help facilitate the continued education to build upon the work they’ve already done (with Dollar Bank, Bridgeway Capital, etc.), along with the conversations they’ve been having with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and local universities about the possibilities of students receiving internships to support Black businesses, and Emerald City seems poised to propel Black entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh to new heights.

(Editor’s note: For information on how to become a member or to discuss your business needs see, visit emeraldcitypgh.com or call  412-652-9364.)

 

 

 

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